Early Report On Gambling Disorder Study Holds Promise For Public Health Planners

Self-Exclusion Rolls May Hold Key to More Effectively Targeting Resources

Oct 7, 2004

LAS VEGAS—Self-exclusion programs, designed to help problem gamblers, may hold the key to more effectively targeting public health resources, according to preliminary findings in a groundbreaking research study of the Missouri Gaming Commission’s Voluntary Exclusion program reported here today.

“Our analysis of the 5,125 men and women who voluntarily banned themselves from Missouri’s riverboat casinos from 1997 to 2003 shows that Missouri public health officials can use the rate of self-exclusion to make informed decisions on how and where to allocate limited treatment and prevention resources,” said Christine Reilly, executive director of the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders, who presented the findings before gaming industry leaders at this year’s Global Gaming Expo.

Reilly reported that researchers from Harvard Medical School’s Division on Addictions were able to confirm it is possible to use self-exclusion numbers to determine the disordered gambling prevalence rates both on a statewide basis, and, more importantly, at the county level.

According to the authors of the study, this means Missouri public health officials can use readily available self-exclusion program enrollment information to systematically update “estimated prevalence more efficiently, accurately and economically.” This means public health workers, regulators and lawmakers will be able to track levels of disordered gambling and determine appropriate prevention and treatment strategies on a more timely basis.

The current methods of establishing prevalence rates make it economically unviable to review rates frequently and are unable to provide the county-level information the Harvard approach provides.

Reilly told the gaming executives, that, although the findings she presented were specific to Missouri, the Harvard researchers are confident, upon completion, the full study will provide valuable guidance to other states.

Results presented Thursday represent Phase I of a two-part study of Missouri’s self-exclusion program. The objective of Phase I was to determine the relative prevalence of gambling disorders in Missouri’s counties and the city of St. Louis. Establishing the relative prevalence rates is important, according to the researchers, because it will help define the need for treatment at the county-level and provide accurate information to use in reducing the impact of disordered gambling on pubic health.

The study used information on the 5,125 Missouri-resident self-excluders enrolled for the complete calendar years of 1997 through 2003. It concluded that:

• Approximately 39,000 Missourians had a level III (the most serious level) gambling disorder within the past-year.
• Ninety-two percent of the Missouri self-excluders were from the Kansas City or St. Louis regions.
• Missouri self-excluders are younger than the state’s adult population: 83 percent of the self-excluders are between 24 and 54 years of age, whereas 57 percent of Missouri’s adult population is in that age range.
• The proportion of minorities is greater among self-excluders than Missouri’s population: 26 percent of self-excluders reported their race as other than Caucasian; whereas 15 percent of Missouri’s adult population is not Caucasian.

Phase II of the study, which will begin this fall, will determine:

• The effectiveness of the Missouri self exclusion program for helping people resolve their problems.
• What modifications might improve the program’s impact.
• What other assistance would improve healthy responses to combating gambling-related problems.

The Harvard study was made possible by a competitive grant from the Port Authority of Kansas City’s Problem Gambling Fund. Partial support came from the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders, a program of the Harvard Medical School Division on Addictions, the National Center for Responsible Gaming and the Missouri Gaming Commission.

The Missouri Gaming Commission’s Voluntary Exclusion Program provided the self-exclusion enrollment database for the study.

Complete research results are available atwww.hms.harvard.edu/doa/html/library.htm. To obtain the password necessary to access the information, contact Chris Reilly at christine_reilly@hms.harvard.edu or 617-359-9904.

The NCRG, the only national organization devoted exclusively to public education about and funding of peer-reviewed research on disordered gambling, was established in 1996. The NCRG supports the finest peer-reviewed basic and applied research on gambling disorders; encourages the application of new research findings to improve prevention, diagnostic intervention and treatment strategies; and enhances public awareness of pathological and youth gambling. To date, the casino industry and related businesses have committed more than $12 million to this effort, and the NCRG has issued more than $8 million in support of groundbreaking research on gambling disorders. In 2000, the NCRG established the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders at Harvard Medical School’s Division on Addictions. For more information, visitwww.ncrg.org.

The Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders is a program of the Division on Addictions at Harvard Medical School. In accordance with the Harvard University name policy, the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders should not be referred to as the “Harvard Institute…” or the “Harvard Medical School Institute…” For more information about the use of the Harvard name, visithttp://www.hms.harvard.edu/fa/use_of_the_Harvard_name.html.